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Customers are usually great but they do say silly things sometimes.

I never thought I’d start my career in customer service. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed helping and teaching others, but I was never looking to enter this field. We never even discussed it in college! We learned about finance, accounting, HR, marketing, sales… but that was it.

The first time I experienced what it means to be a customer service agent was in France. I spent 2 months working as a campground receptionist. The pay was good, customers tended to be happy (they were on holidays after all!) and the weather was great. It was a fine experience but I wasn’t planning on making a living out of it. The job was too repetitive.

I went on to experience other roles and it wasn’t until I started looking after Tutdao that I returned to taking care of customers. I’d take tourists on tours with her and teach them as much about elephants as I knew. Alternatively, I’d be busy with resolving communication issues between the camp’s Thai employees & customers or processing bookings. But that was still just for fun. It never crossed my mind that I’d be building a career around this.

Everything changed once I got headhunted for a customer service position at the company I currently work for. I hadn’t heard of the company or industry before but everything about the position felt right. Although I have moved on to a managerial position and no longer engage with our customers directly, I do get to step in if there’s a big problem to solve. And that’s when I remember why I got into customer service in the first place. I love that:

  1. You get to help people. Your work has a direct impact on somebody’s life and will make them happy if all goes well. There’s nothing better than hearing ‘Thank you for your great advice and for getting this solved so quickly. You’re a star!’ at the end of your day.
  2. You immediately see your work’s output. I’m not just talking about customer satisfaction and retention here. The most rewarding feeling is when you’ve been able to drive revenue. I loved upselling customers while solving the initial query they wrote in about. Think: ‘You want fries with that?’
  3. You engage in continuous learning. You need to know your product, processes and company inside out. You’ll know details and quirks that nobody else knows. More importantly, you constantly keep learning new things. You need to be aware of every product update since you will be the one to discuss the product with customers. Note: continuous learning might not be happening within customer service teams working for companies offering a standardized product that never changes. However, I’ve gotten really lucky in this regard as the company I currently work for offers a technical product that is constantly evolving and has lots of hidden complexities.
  4. You can shape your employer’s products & processes. Customers will constantly complain about product & process issues. It will be your responsibility – and opportunity – to ensure product teams are updated accordingly. It’s your role to make sure the customer is heard!
  5. You develop emotional intelligence. I’ve always been good at picking up on other people’s emotions but working in customer service has definitely upped my skills. Managing other people’s emotions as well as your own is key to being a successful customer service agent. Being empathetic doesn’t mean apologising for the inconvenience caused and leaving it at that. It means you’re an expert at identifying, understanding and sharing a person’s feeling… Their pain is your pain. Their joy is your joy. Definitely a skill that’s useful for your personal life as well!

Customer service is not for everyone and – let’s be honest – it tends to have a negative stigma attached to it. Most people (unjustly!) look down on customer service jobs. But let’s be real for a second: no company can survive without its customers. It’s time we start seeing the value in customer service again and show those working in customer facing positions the respect they deserve. They don’t have a job as easy as everyone thinks.